Are You at Risk for Developing Diabetes?
Diabetes means that the body has an inability to produce or use insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone that lets you use glucose as energy. Without it, glucose will build up in your blood and cause untold amounts of damage to your organs – especially your kidneys, hearts, nerves, and eyes.
There are three types: Type I, Type II, and Gestational Diabetes.
Type I used to be called Juvenile Diabetes, because it was thought that only children got it. However, the truth is, anyone can develop Type I diabetes. There are two main risk factors for developing Type I diabetes (which means your body is no longer producing any insulin and never will produce insulin on its own):
* Genetics and family history. If you have a mom, dad, sister, or brother with Type 1 diabetes, then you should get regularly screened.
* Pancreatic disease, infection or illness. There are many different types of illnesses and diseases that can damage the pancreas, causing Type 1 diabetes. If you have any of these illnesses it’s important to get regular screenings.
In these cases there isn’t much you can do other than take care of yourself, eat right, and get regular screenings.
Type II Diabetes means that your body still produces insulin but for whatever reason you cannot make use of it due to inadequate production or some other factor. The major risk factors for Type II are:
* Obesity. If you are even a little bit overweight, your risk factor for Type II goes up. However, if you are actually obese you’re at an even higher risk and it’s probably a question of when, not if, you will develop Type II diabetes.
* Sedentary. If you don’t exercise for at least one hour three times a week, you are sedentary and your risk factor for Type II diabetes goes up. If you have a job that requires you to sit more than four hours a day and you don’t make a special effort to exercise each day, you are also sedentary.
* Genetics. If you have a family history you’re much more likely to develop it as well. This is especially true with first degree relatives like a mom or dad, brother or sister.
* Glucose intolerance. This is really pre-diabetes. It simply means that you’re at a high risk of developing actual diabetes due to the fact that you already have higher blood sugar levels than is normal.
* Insulin resistance. If you have cells that resist the insulin your body is pumping out, keeping your blood sugar high, it can make your pancreas work too hard trying to clear the body of sugar.
* Ethnicity. Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives all have a higher incident of Type II diabetes.
* Age. Even age can play a part, especially if you have any of the other risk factors. You can develop Type II diabetes at any age, but if you’re over the age of 45 you’re more likely to develop it if you have any of the other risk factors.
This is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes show high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. The main risk factors are:
* Maternal obesity. It’s important for any woman planning pregnancy to try to get their BMI normal through diet and exercise.
* Genetics. If Mom, Dad, brothers or sisters have or had GD during pregnancy you’re at a higher risk.
* Member of a high risk group. The same high risk group mentioned for Type II is also at a greater risk for developing GD.
* Large birth weight baby. Having a baby more than 9 lbs predisposes you to a higher probability of having GD.
* Having GD in prior pregnancy. If you had it before, you may develop it again.
* Polyhydramnios. If you have too much amniotic fluid, you are at a higher risk of developing GD.
Regardless of your risk factors, make going to the doctor for a yearly exam, including a blood sugar check, part of your regular health monitoring. Catching problems earlier rather than later can save you a lot of problems. Since having diabetes can contribute to a whole host of other health issues.
Is it Preventable?
There are three major types of diabetes – Type I, Type II and gestational diabetes (GD). Type I is classified as such due to the fact that the patient no longer produces any of their own insulin. Someone with Type II produces their own insulin but it’s not working. A person with GD may end up falling into either class. But is more likely to have Type II diabetes temporarily and be cured of it when they deliver the baby.
Type I is definitely not preventable or curable. It is due to a genetic issue that hasn’t yet been completely figured out. The only thing to do if someone has Type I diabetes is to follow their doctor’s instructions. And try to keep their blood sugar levels as normal as possible through medication, diet and exercise.
Gestational and Type II may be preventable for a portion of the population. When you consider the risk factors such as obesity, you can deduce that if you keep your weight at a more normal level you might avoid developing either Type II or GD.
Most people can avoid a whole host of illnesses by just paying more attention to exercise and diet.
Lowering the Risk of Type II or Gestational Diabetes
Just watching calories isn’t enough. It’s important to eat a whole food, plant-based diet for the best results when trying to lower your risks of developing gestational or Type II diabetes. If you want to become pregnant at some point, try to spend at least the year leading up to the pregnancy eating as well as possible. If you just want to avoid illness, eat well at least 80 percent of the time.
According to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Type II is preventable in most cases. They recommend serious lifestyle changes like an unprocessed diet made up of mostly plant-based foods. By following a prevention diet and exercise program you can cut your risks in half.
* Exercise daily – Try to exercise at least 30 minutes per day five days a week. You can make exercise fun. Take up gardening. Or get a dog that you can walk or run with every day.
* Lose weight – Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can drastically reduce your risk of developing Type II diabetes, but if you are still overweight, try to get yourself into the normal BMI for someone your height for best results.
* Eat healthy – There is a lot of argument on what is classified as a healthy diet, but more and more studies are showing that a plant-based, whole food diet can cure and even reverse many food-borne illnesses.
Ben Franklin once said that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and nothing could be more true or even understated than this when you consider all the risks you can avoid by simple changes in your diet and adding exercise to your day.
Complications from Diabetes
There are many serious problems and risks for people with diabetes. These risks all go up exponentially if left untreated. Treating diabetes through both medication and proper diet can help eliminate or delay problems associated with diabetes. So if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s imperative that you and your doctor keep close monitoring of your health.
Blindness – Even though you are treated, many people who have diabetes will still suffer from some form of eye problems, reduced vision and even blindness. Always let your eye doctor know that you have diabetes. Eye problems are so common in diabetic patients. Therefore sometimes the eye doctor is the first one to notice something wrong.
Kidney failure – Due to the fact that diabetes damages small blood vessels, kidney problems and even failure is common among diabetics. Keep your doctor informed if you notice problems or start getting a lot of infections.
Cardiovascular issues – One of the biggest killers of people with diabetes is cardiovascular illness. You can develop coronary artery disease which can lead to a heart attack and/or a stroke. Many people only find out about their diabetes when it’s too late. And they’re in the ER due to a heart attack.
Amputation – Due to the fact that it damages small blood vessels, veins and nerves, some people with diabetes have trouble with their lower extremities. Injuries don’t heal as fast, and they develop problems that eventually require amputation. Due to damaged nerves you may not realize you’ve even hurt your foot. Do regular self-exams to be safe.
Pregnancy issues – If you have diabetes during pregnancy you are at greater risk of having a child with organ damage, and the mother is at an extremely high risk of kidney problems and even death without well-managed care.
When you have diabetes, regardless of the type, it’s important to try to manage and keep your blood glucose as close to normal levels as possible to stop these problems. Depending on what type you have, diet will have either an enormous effect. At least enough of an effect to matter.
Follow your doctor’s instruction on testing your blood. This depends on what type you have, as well as some other factors. With Type I diabetes, your doctor will likely ask you to test at least three or more times per day. This is done typically after meals, before and after exercise, before bed and sometimes even during the night.
With Type II, depending on how much insulin you take, you’re usually going to be testing in the morning after fasting, and after meals. Some people with Type II who can manage without insulin don’t have to test as much.
Your doctor will give you a range for which you want your blood sugar levels maintained. Usually and on average, before meals your range should be between 70 and 130. After a meal 180, and after fasting between 90 and 130 (mg/dl). Ask your doctor to help you understand these numbers so that you can keep track better.
Your doctor will also prescribe a specific diet. If you want to manage and control it to avoid complications, it’s important to take it seriously and follow instructions.